Greetings from Prague, where my wife Amanda and I ran away to for a week while all the kids are away at summer Things.
We arrived yesterday, and today we spent the day doing two VERY different but exceptionally interesting things: We spent seven hours exploring the Nazi camp in Terezin, and the evening having casual barbeque (complete with black bean burgers!) at the residence of the US Amabassador to Czech, Andrew Schapiro (whose wonderful wife Tamar grew up with Amanda).
It was a bit of culture whiplash; going from a place where a (Jewish) prisoner might have been unsure on ANY DAY whether he or she (or his or her family) would live to see evening (or be put on a train East to Auschwitz), to a place where the (Jewish) representative of the largest superpower discussed the issues he has with the other diplomats in town--and the real-world difficulties those issues can trigger--over blueberry sorbet and a really lovely Moravian wine.
But we learned on common thing from both parts of the day: People, whether in contemporary times or in the 1930s and 40s, are afraid of the Other, and will take the opportunity to oppress that Other when it is afforded them. And rhetoric hasn't changed that much over the past 80 years (or much farther back than that). It made us want to hold our children, and to protect them. This rhetoric isn't just on line, or theoretical. It is the rationale behind many of the movements gaining momentum across Europe and the world, and in the US, and it's scary as hell. Because thousands and thousands of well-off Europeans thought "oh it's ok, I'll be safe" in the 1930s, and ended up in a lice-ridden barrack in 1942, separated from their families and hoping to avoid a beating or worse.
The hate speech I see every day on line, on TV, in the newspapers is chilling. I say this to everyone (Though sadly most of the people I'm preaching to are the Choir): We need to be good to each other, and to allow people who don't look like us or pray like us or come from somewhere else to be good to each other too. Then we can be better than people were 70 years ago, or 50 years ago, or last week.
Hopefully next week will be cheerier!